The Vatican (Wednesday, February 13, 2019, Gaudium Press) This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:25 in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Taking up the series of catecheses on the “Our Father,” in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the Father of us all (Biblical passage: From the Gospel according to Luke 10:21-22).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father addressed special greetings to groups of the faithful present
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We continue our course to learn ever better to pray as Jesus taught us. We must pray as He taught us to do so. He said: when you pray, enter in the silence of your room, withdraw from the world, and turn to God calling Him “Father!” Jesus wants His disciples not to be as the hypocrites, who pray standing upright in the Squares to be admired by the people (Cf. Matthew 6:5). Jesus doesn’t want hypocrisy. True prayer is that which is made in the secret of the conscience, of the heart: inscrutable, visible only to God – God and me. It shuns falsehood: it’s impossible to feign with God. It’s impossible. Before God there is no trick that has power; God knows us thus, naked in conscience, and we can’t feign. At the root of the dialogue with God there is a silent dialogue, as the crossing of looks between two persons who love one another: man and God: our looks cross, and this is prayer. To look at God is to let oneself be looked at by God: this is to pray. “But Father, I don’t say words . . .” Look at God and let Him look at you: It’s a prayer, a beautiful prayer!
Yet, despite the disciple’s prayer being wholly confidential, it never falls into “intimism”. In the secret of his conscience, a Christian doesn’t leave the world outside the door of his room but carries persons and situations in his heart, their problems, so many things, all are taken to prayer.
There is an impressive absence in the text of the “Our Father.” If I asked you what is the impressive absence in the text of the “Our Father”? It won’t be easy to answer. A word is missing. All of you think: what is missing in the “Our Father”?
Think what is missing. A word, a word that in our times – but perhaps always – everyone holds in great consideration. What is the word that is lacking in the “Our Father” that we pray every day? To save time, I’ll say it: the word “I” is lacking. “I” is never said. Jesus teaches to pray having on one’s lips first of all “You,” because Christian prayer is dialogue: hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Not my name, my kingdom, my will. “I” no, it should not be. And then it passes to “Us.” All the second part of the “Our Father” is declined in the first person plural: “give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Even man’s most elementary requests – such as that of having food to assuage hunger – are all in the plural. In Christian prayer, no one asks for bread for him/herself: Give me my daily bread – no – give us, he entreats for all, for all the poor in the world. This must not be forgotten, the word “I” is lacking. One prays with “you” and with “us.” It’s a good teaching of Jesus; don’t forget it.
Why? – because in the dialogue with God there is no room for individualism. There is no ostentation of our own problems as if we were the only ones suffering in the world. There is no prayer elevated to God that isn’t the prayer of a community of brothers and sisters, the “us”: we are in community; we are brothers and sisters; we are a people that pray, “we.” Once a prison chaplain asked me a question: “Tell me, Father, what is the word contrary to “I’? And I, naive, said: “You.” “This is the beginning of war. The word opposed to ‘I” is ‘we,’ where peace lies, all together.” It’s a good teaching that I received from that priest. In prayer, a Christian bears all the difficulties of persons that live around him: when evening falls, he tells God the sorrows he has come across that day: he puts before Him many faces, friendly and also hostile, he doesn’t drive them away as dangerous distractions. If one doesn’t realize that around one there are so many people suffering, if one is not moved by the tears of the poor and is accustomed to everything, then it means that his heart . . . is how? Withered? No, worse, it’s of stone. In this case, it’s good to entreat the Lord to touch us with His Spirit and tenderize our heart.” “Lord, tenderize my heart.” It’s a beautiful prayer.” “Lord, tenderize my heart. So that I can understand and take charge of all the problems, of all the sorrows of others.” Christ didn’t pass unaffected next to the miseries of the world: every time He perceived loneliness, pain of body or spirit, he felt a strong sense of compassion, as a mother’s innermost being. This “feeling compassion” – let us not forget this very Christian word: to feel compassion – it’s one of the keywords of the Gospel: it’s what spurred the Good Samaritan to approach the wounded man on the side of the road, as opposed to the others who had a hard heart.
We can ask ourselves: when I pray, do I open myself to the cry of so many close and distant persons? Or do I think of prayer as a sort of anesthesia, to be able to be more tranquil? I throw out the question there; each one answer to himself. In this case, I would be the victim of a terrible mistake. My prayer would certainly no longer be a Christian prayer, because that “us,” which Jesus taught us, impedes me from being in peace on my own, and makes me feel responsible for my brothers and sisters.
There are men who apparently don’t seek God, but Jesus makes us pray for them also because God seeks these people most of all. Jesus didn’t come for the healthy but for the sick and the sinners (Cf. Luke 5:31) – namely, for all, because he who thinks he is healthy in reality isn’t so. If we work for justice, let us not feel ourselves better than others: the Father makes His sun rise on the good and on the evil (Cf. Matthew 5:45). The Father loves all! Let us learn from God who is always good to all, as opposed to us who are able to be good only to some, to someone like.
Brothers and sisters, Saints and sinners, we are all brothers loved by the same Father. And, in the evening of life, we will be judged on love, on how we have loved. Not just a sentimental love, but compassionate and concrete, according to the evangelical rule – don’t forget it! – “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). Thus says the Lord. Thank you.